UK Government policy week on the Blog. What is ARIA?

ARIA stands for Advanced Research and Invention Agency and is set to be the Government’s newest funding agency. “But don’t we already have UKRI” I hear you say? Well yes, but ARIA will supposedly complement the work of UKRI, while building on the government’s ambitious R&D Roadmap published in July 2020.

ARIA will exclusively focus on projects with potential to produce transformative technological change, or a paradigm-shift in an area of science. While it is anticipated that most programmes may fail in achieving their ambitious aims, those which succeed will have profound and positive impact on society. ARIA will be headed by leading scientists and innovators with the remit of engaging in high risk and high reward transformational research, adding a new capability to the UK’s innovation architecture.

A Government Bill is currently passing through parliament to establish ARIA as a statutory corporation. The Bill sets out ARIA’s functions – ‘focused on conducting “ambitious” scientific research with a tolerance to failure, and on developing, exploiting and sharing scientific knowledge, such as translating basic scientific research into more commercial technologies. It enables the Secretary of State to provide ARIA with funding.’

ARIA will be based on the principles of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) now renamed DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The idea is that this new research body will be independent and sit outside the structures of UKRI and be given a greater degree of independence from government in its decision-making than other government-backed funders. At present, £800M is promised in total over 4 years with £50M in 2021-22.

ARIA will use a range of innovative approaches to funding researchers, which is likely to include the ability to run prizes; take equity stakes; and issue small grants rapidly without lengthy open competitions.

You can read all about it here.